Ciena joins research and education networks to study SDN for optical WANs

Ciena Corp. (NASDAQ: CIEN) has announced that it has joined with three significant members of the research and education (R&E) network community – CANARIE, Internet2, and StarLight – to study the application of software-defined network (SDN) concepts on fiber-optic networks. At the heart of the collaboration will be a “proof bed” that will enable the participants to study and demonstrate SDN concepts for the control and use of multilayer wide-area networks (WANs).

Ciena Corp. (NASDAQ: CIEN) has announced that it has joined with three significant members of the research and education (R&E) network community – CANARIE, Internet2, and StarLight – to study the application of software-defined network (SDN) concepts on fiber-optic networks. At the heart of the collaboration will be a “proof bed” that will enable the participants to study and demonstrate SDN concepts for the control and use of multilayer wide-area networks (WANs).

The optical transport systems vendor has close ties with the R&E community, including working on an effort to investigate transatlantic 100-Gbps R&E network connections in a program that also plans to address SDN elements (see “R&E networks demonstrate 100-Gbps transatlantic connections at TERENA Networking Conference”). However, this newly announced effort is a separate initiative, according to Chris Janz, vice president of market development at Ciena. The effort will create a network that will serve as a testbed for SDN work with the following features, It will:

  • Leverage OpenFlow across both the packet and transport layers.
  • Feature an open architecture, modular carrier-scale controller, and intrinsic multilayer operation.
  • Incorporate real time analytics software applications.

With these elements, the effort will use the test network to focus on SDN as a way to help support multilayer network optimization as well as maximizing carrier revenues through the support of flexible network resources. The collaboration will make the development of capabilities that enable mass customized “network as a service” a top priority, Janz says.

Ciena and its partners expect the test network to be the first to broadly deploy multilayer SDN technologies in the form of OpenFlow-enabled capabilities at both the optical transport and packet networking layers. The 2500-km fiber-optic network initially will connect Ciena’s corporate headquarters in Hanover, MD, and its R&D center in Ottawa to Internet2 through the StarLight International/National Communications Exchange in Chicago and to CANARIE, Canada's national R&E network. These connections open the door to collaboration with additional partners, and Janz expects other participants will join the effort – or at least avail themselves of the network to trial complementary SDN-related applications or other elements.

Ciena will supply the following technology to the testbed:

  • OpenFlow v1.3-enabled 4-Tbps core switches that feature 400G packet blades.
  • Layer 0 and Layer 1 OTN transport elements from Ciena’s 6500 and 5400 packet-optical transport lines that are configurable under extended OpenFlow protocol control.
  • A prototype open, modular, and modifiable control software system that leverages open source components and is suitable for large-scale and geographically distributed network control.
  • Multilayer provisioning and control capabilities via an abstracted northbound API.
  • Real time analytics software designed to enable multilayer resource optimization and dynamic network service pricing.

“Going above and beyond a simple testbed, this live, fully functional network will drive continued innovation and demonstrate how a truly OPn network architecture can unleash the full power of SDN in the WAN,” said Steve Alexander, senior vice president and CTO at Ciena via a press release. “By building the industry’s first fully featured, fully open, and fully operational end-to-end and multilayer SDN-powered WAN, we can offer a real world experience for customers and researchers to trial, refine, and prove SDN concepts and technologies in both the network and the back office – without having to build a unique infrastructure for every use case.”

“Network operators today are enthusiastic about the cost savings and revenue potential of SDN. But many pieces and parts must fall into place for them to prove the reality of those benefits and put them into practice,” offered Michael Howard, co-founder and principal analyst, carrier networks at Infonetics Research, via the same press release. “Ciena and its partners are stepping up to deliver a workable critical mass of those components, and to prove, study, and evaluate the full potential of SDN in the service-provider WAN environment. This is critical to the advancement of the industry as a whole, as the provider WAN environment is a much more complex one than most of the other environments targeted by SDN efforts and focus so far – like the data center.”

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